Reconstructing Syntax


During several decades, syntactic reconstruction has been more or less regarded as a bootless and an unsuccessful venture, not least due to the heavy criticism in the 1970s from scholars like Watkins, Jeffers, Lightfoot, etc. This fallacious view culminated in Lightfoot’s (2002: 625) conclusion: “[i]f somebody thinks that they can reconstruct grammars more successfully and in more widespread fashion, let them tell us their methods and show us their results. Then we’ll eat the pudding.” This volume provides methods for the identification of i) cognates in syntax, and ii) the directionality of syntactic change, showcasing the results in the introduction and eight articles. These examples are offered as both tastier and also more nourishing than the pudding Lightfoot had in mind when discarding the viability of reconstructing syntax.
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Jóhanna Barðdal, Ph.D. (2001), Lund University, is a professor at Ghent University. She has published extensively, including monographs and journal articles, on case marking and argument structure, oblique subjects, syntactic productivity, and syntactic reconstruction, focusing on Icelandic, Germanic and Indo-European.

Spike Gildea, Ph.D. (1992), University of Oregon, is a professor at that same university. He has written a monograph and several articles, plus edited several books, on historical syntax, functional typology, and the Cariban language family of South America.

Eugenio R. Luján, Ph.D. (1996), Complutense University of Madrid, is professor of Indo-European Linguistics at that same university. He has published several papers and monographs on various ancient Indo-European languages (especially Mycenaean Greek, Celtic and Palaeohispanic languages), as well as on the morphosyntax of Proto-Indo-European.
"With its clear introductory state-of-the-art essay and its eight highly empirical studies, showing wide-ranging language coverage across several families, Reconstructing Syntax tackles two key issues in historical syntax, namely how one can identify cognates in syntax and whether there is determinable directionality in syntactic change. The volume succeeds mightily, offering enlightening and important answers to these - and other - questions, thus contributing in significant ways to on-going discussions in the field." ~ Brian D. Joseph, Distinguished University Professor, The Ohio State University

"This is an extremely timely volume, taking on what has long been a thorny issue: the possibility of rigorous syntactic reconstruction. It provides a welcome survey of the history of discussion of potential methodological pitfalls unique to such endeavors, dating back more than a century. It then presents sets of innovative strategies, made possible by new approaches to syntax, along with assessments of their relative utilities. The contributions cover fundamental syntactic constructions spanning a rich variety of languages, some with extensive written records (Indo-European) others with only modern documentation (Austronesian, Chibchan)." ~ Marianne Mithun, Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara
This volume is of interest to all historical syntacticians and historial linguists, as well as to specialists within Indo-European, Semitic, Austronesian and native American languages.
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